Posted by: zyxo | October 21, 2008

The end of evolution


mutationImage via Wikipedia

Genetics professor Steve Jones says the rate of genetic mutations found in humans is falling dramatically. Does this mean the end of human evolution ?
Certainly not.
Evolution is the result of selection pressure (an environment) and possibilities to change the gene pool.
The first thing : each and everyone of us has an environment. That’s for sure. For some of us the environment is beneficial, facilitating our procreation, for others its nothing but trouble and you are lucky to survive to adulthood. So there is plenty of genetic pressure.
The second : change possibilities. The first one is mutations. OK, they are diminishing due to our behaviour, (but perhaps increasing do to radiation, and all the messy stuff they put in our food ?).
On the other hand there is a lot of diversity in the human gene pool, due to a diminishing selective pressure. As long as that pressure exists and does not act perfectly random, each man or woman who dies before he or she has children means a little change in the human gene pool. The same is true for each child that is born.
And thirdly, even if the overall human gene pool does not change, each human is sort of random sample from that gene pool. Change in these sample means evolution.
And there is more. Even if natural selection stops in the sense that everyone survives, no matter what their fitness is (is not yet true because young people still die and some people have no children !) there still is selection, namely partner selection. The remixing of the gene pool is not random.
So we still will see changes, at the individual level, at the community level, at the nations level …

And perhaps we are witnessing nowadays a more or less radical change in selection pressure : as a result of the credit crisis people will have to survive

  • with rapidly diminishing financial means (at least thats what we are seeing right now). This also implies a selection on stress-proof people
  • with less money (the second stage)

Who knows what the (financial) world will look like within 2 years ? Will it be restored like it was before, or will we have seen a total meltdown with no trust left whatsoever ?

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